Edgartown selectmen appoint David Rossi police chief

Detective Sergeant Chris Dolby, who will become part of the leadership team, was promoted to lieutenant.

Photo by Rich Saltzberg

In back-to-back votes Monday, Edgartown selectmen appointed Patrolman David Rossi to be the town’s new police chief, and appointed Detective Sergeant Chris Dolby to the rank of lieutenant.

Town Clerk Wanda Williams swore in both men before selectmen and an audience of friends, family members, Edgartown police, and Island law enforcement officials. West Tisbury Police Chief Daniel Rossi pinned the chief’s shield on his brother David’s uniform, to hearty applause.

The newly minted Edgartown police chief in turn pinned the lieutenant’s shield on Mr. Dolby’s uniform, and applause broke out again.

Following the completion of routine agenda items, Selectmen Arthur Smadbeck made the nominations for the appointments.

“I’ve known both for a very, very long time, and I just really couldn’t think of better hands to have Edgartown in at this juncture,” Mr. Smadbeck said.

In brief remarks, David Rossi spoke about his connections to the town and the community and said he wanted to do what was best for Edgartown. “I’m honored to be recommended for this position,” Officer Rossi said. “I’m a lucky guy.”

“And we’re a lucky town,” Selectmen Chairman Michael Donaroma said.

The appointments followed the recommendations made last week by acting Edgartown Police Chief John M. Collins, a labor lawyer and law enforcement specialist, hired to serve in the interim period following the retirement of Chief Tony Bettencourt.

In a detailed 89-page report, titled “A Blueprint for Excellence: An Evaluation of and Vision for the Edgartown Police Department,”

Mr. Collins recommended selectmen name Mr. Rossi, a 25-year veteran of the department, the new police chief.

Mr. Collins also recommended a “two-person approach” to the department’s leadership, and the appointment of Detective Sergeant Chris Dolby to the position of lieutenant, second in command.

“Between them, they have what it takes to provide the leadership the department needs, and they can feed off of each other’s strengths,” Mr. Collins said.

He said, “I have become convinced that these two make a terrific team and together possess the strengths, dedication, vision and capabilities needed to lead the Edgartown Police Department in the coming years.”

In his remarks, Mr. Rossi said he would act on the recommendations in the report, in particular on accreditation, to insure the town met national standards.

The generally celebratory mood was not universally shared. Repeating points he raised at annual town meeting last month, Peter Look criticized what he saw as a lack of public input in the appointment process, as well as a lack of public discussion about the findings in Mr. Collins’ report on the police department, which was released only last week. “I came here thinking we were going to discuss the report,” he said.

Mr. Look described the police chief’s position as the most important appointed position in the town, and said that the appointment process was a “done deal.”

Mr. Look emphasized that it was the procedure, not the people. “I support the candidates 100 percent,” he said.

Warren Gosson, a retired Oak Bluffs policeman and sharp critic of the Edgartown department, was less kind in his assessment.

Mr. Gosson, whose previous behavior toward selectmen was the subject of a police investigation, accused selectmen of violating the open meeting law. Reading from a prepared text on his cellphone as he stood in the middle of the room, Mr. Gosson was critical of the appointment process, and singled out the prior appointment of now retired chief Tony Bettencourt. Mr. Gosson’s unflattering remarks about Mr. Bettencourt were too much for many of the officers in the room, who left while Mr. Gosson spoke. Chairman Donaroma told Mr. Gosson he had one more minute. Mr. Gosson recommended the accredited Oak Bluffs Police Department should temporarily take over the Edgartown Police Department while it sought accreditation.

Mr. Donaroma had had enough and cut Mr. Gosson off.

“In the eight, ten, twelve years I’ve been here [as a selectman],” Mr. Donaroma said, “I’ve never felt more confident in a decision I’ve made in an appointment — ever.”

Mr. Donaroma said the selection process had worked well for Edgartown for the past 50 years.

Selectmen Margaret Serpa, who is related to the officers, recused herself from the appointments, but was present.